The following is the third chapter in my fantasy story. This follows the POV narratives of The Hunter and The Girl. My test prologue also features on the website. Keep in mind that this is an unedited chapter (as with the other chapters) and my finished product will look very differently. I hope this may give an insight into the writing craft and my perspectives on my fantasy story . The headings which I have inserted into this chapter also will not be part of the finished product – they serve to give clarity for online ease-of-reading.
The rainbow hues of the Elseworld danced lazily before Lina’s eyes. Will o’ the wisps and wherelights, floated before her, dancing in lugubrious loops. There was a laziness to their movements, echoing the yawn spreading across her own mouth.
She stood on a half constructed bridge, spun from the finest gossamer threads, a construct of her dreams. In the Elseworld thoughts came into reality and any place became reachable, if you knew where to build a doorway. The amorphous shape of the Elseworld which flickered and flowed in blobs of liquid light, was intimidating for new travellers, however.
As always, Lina’s hairs tingled with the electric song from the Wyrd around her. Its presence was so palpable in the gaps of the Elseworld that she could taste the metallic bite of its magic. It was the power of the Wyrd, which fuelled the Elseworld, burning life into every aspect of its world-between-world nature.
Lina strode forward, the bridge firming and extending before her every step. Her skin-tight armour faded around her at the same time, transforming into a set with a black tunic and pair of pants. Ahead of her, the invisible foundations of the Elseworld gave birth to a solid platform. The platform was dimorphous – both liquid and solid at the same time – and shimmered with a metallic sheen.
As Lina reached the platform, two rods of burnished gold rose from the platform. They elongated and curving at right angles until they joined into a single empty door-frame. There was a low, humming sound and then a hiss as a solid beam of light split the middle of the door. The light separated, moving up and down and forming a solid surface across the frame. The pool of light shimmered and flickered, resolving into a still image: an imposing castle of marble with spires growing up and around themselves, as if it were an organic structure.
Lina smiled at the image. “Home,” she breathed, as she took a step forward into the center of the image. As her skin touched the picture it dissolved around her, the familiar sensation like stepping through a sheet of water made her feel like home. As always the familiar sensation was like stepping through a sheet of water.
She passed through the frame, finding herself in the very world represented by the image. The golden sky sparkled with fresh morning light, and the purple clouds were wet with fresh rain. The greenery of the grass and trees was as pristine and fresh as ever, while sparkling trails of Wyrd-dust flowed through the breeze. Lina took in a deep breath, feeling the pure air expand her lungs and reinvigorate her senses.
The knight’s skin tingled with the very presence of pure Wyrd power, as the world around shone with life and beauty. Lina looked up towards the marble castle, “Alright Lina, time to make your report…” and took a step forward.
The castle was at least one thousand metres away from Lina and towered over everything else in its nearby surroundings. The castle stood out to Lina clearer than anything, as the only major building around – for it was so tall and wide. Lina began to walk forwards and to her right and left as she walked, the twin rivers of the land trailed to the very edge of the disc-shaped world and fell over, the turquoise water flowing off into oblivion. It was the fresh-beauty of the land that recaptured Lina’s imagination everytime she returned.
Yet, the castle was her set destination and so Lina fixed her gaze on the building, turning from viewing the scenery. The building was a mountain looming over the horizon, with multiple spires stretching out like tree-branches. Or like twisted fingers.
Entwined into the spiraling extensions of the castle was golden filigree of the highest quality and largest size. No matter how often I return you always take my breath away. Lina again remained awestruck by the sheer beauty of the castle – the way in which it grew so organically from out of the landscape.
Lina considered how the legends said that the castle had been hewn from an old mountain millenia ago. A mountain in which the presence of the Wyrd was so palpable, that it took physical form. Yet now it was the Keep of Virtues, a fortress of security for the Wyrd Knights. And my home for over ten years now.
Lina stopped in her tracks, Ten years! To think of it, that I was a child only just that long ago. How time has flown…
Ten years since Lina had gone through her own Changing. Ten years since she had left her small hometown in the land of Afriel and come here, to the Keep’s very walls of law and order.
The young knight quickened her pace towards the Keep. As she drew nearer to the Keep, the landscape began to change and the atmosphere thickened, becoming soupy and humid. The bright green grass gave way to taller, broad-leafed trees with thick spikes and bearing fruit coated with hardened husks. The smell upon the breeze shifted from clean fresh air, changing to the sickly sweet aroma of burnt sugar. Accompanied by the strong metallic taste of magic.
Lina wrinkled her nose, pressing on through the smells to reach the front gate. She had been told that the Keep smelled differently for each individual. And certainly each time Lina arrived, she was confronted with a new olfactory sensation. Others stated that this was because Keep’s atmosphere reacted according to a person’s temperament. However, Lina always believed this to be a fanciful tale. What does burnt sugar have to do with me?
Entering the Keep
The front gate loomed before her, rising up taller than any man and as wide as two or three men. It was formed from a single sheet of iron without a keyhole or any blemish. Lina stepped forward and rapped twice on the metal, letting her knock reverberate. A second passed and then a booming voice called from beyond the gate, “Identification?”
“Lina of Afriel, returning from Sector 080. Designation: Cassiel.”
There was a click in response and the unblemished sheet of metal split down the middle. It swung apart, the metal divided into two halves, allowing Lina access. She stepped forward into a customary darkness and the gate smoothly swung shut behind her.
“One moment please.” The familiar voice was distorted by a whirring sound, followed by a loud hum. A ray of light washed over Lina, scanning her briefly. “Thank you Lina of Afriel,” the crackling voice continued, “Please submit your report to Office 22 immediately.”
The darkness evaporated, sunlight blaring into Lina’s eyes. Her stomach churned with a sudden sense of motion and she found herself standing in a large courtyard. The courtyard stretched onwards for hundreds of metres ahead of Lina and was paved with broad marble tile paths. In between the paths, squares of pure green grass were arranged systematically, while in the center of the courtyard sat a small bubbling fountain, shaped like a cross-hilted sword.
On Lina’s left and right hand-sides the courtyard was enclosed with a long wall that continued around into the horizon. From the top of this wall, the spires of the Keep rose up towards the heavens. In a practised motion, Lina turned and moved towards the wall on her right-hand side. Office 22 it is, she mused.
The wall featured several prominent openings that only became clear as she took the steps towards it. They were small empty cavities, built into the wall itself. Finding the opening she was after, she pressed her left palm to the wall and took a deep breath, relaxing and allowing her body to summon the Wyrd she needed. Her palm grew warm and began to tingle with electricity as she did so, and the smell of metal burned inside her nose.
The opening crackled to life, electricity arcing around its outside and illuminating the crevice. There was a loud bell and a voice fizzled through the energy stream, “Please state your destination.”
“Office 22,” Lina spoke clearly.
“For your destination please step forward now.”
Following the instructions, Lina did as commanded, stepping into the cavity. There was the sound of another bell, and the courtyard vanished from sight, replaced with a clinical and sterile room. The room was sparsely decorated with odd numbers of tables and chairs, and a handful of art pieces hung on the walls.
“Office 22,” the voice sounded again, “Please disembark.”
Stepping forward, the young knight almost tripped on the hole’s lip. Catching herself, she watched the hole seal behind her, becoming a solid white wall. She bit her lip, and ran her fingers through her hair. “Hello, is anyone here?”
A cough made Lina jump, as a middle-aged man dressed in the same black outfit as Lina stood to his feet. She noticed that he had been sitting at a table, just out of her eyeline behind a reclining couch. Lina also noticed that unlike with her simple outfit, he wore a large silver star upon his left breast.
“Soldier Lina. Of Afriel,” the man pondered, “What am I to do with you.”
Lina swallowed, “Commander Matthius, sir, it is my honour…” She was stopped by the man’s dry smile as he gestured for her to come forward, “Is that anyway to treat an old friend?” Matthius embraced her and then motioned for Lina to take a seat.
“So…I hear you were out in Sector 080 today?” Matthius’ tone was as casual as ever.
“Uh, yes sir.” Lina kept her gaze fixed dead ahead, not wanting to look Matthius in the eye.
“Lina,” Matthius tone was intimate, “How many times must I tell you not to call me sir. After all, we are family.”
“Yes, sir. I mean yes Commander.” Lina felt her tongue stumble over the words, oh gods.
Matthius sighed, “Just uncle or Matthius will do, dearest niece.”
Lina turned then and looked him in the eye, “Dearest?” She chuckled, “I remember last time that you distinctly – yes distinctly – said uncle, that I was not fit to carry my mother’s armour. Something about my lack of commitment, I believe?”
Lina watched as her words dug into Matthius like pointed barbs. His expression hardened, then shifted mood again, “And for that, I am truly sorry.” Matthius raised his head, looking Lina in the eyes, “But this is not the time for petty arguments or to bring up long-standing family disagreement.” His tone became more formal, “So, Soldier Lina, what is your report?”
“Well Commander,” Lina coughed, “I patrolled Sector 080 with little to report.” She paused, “Initially. The rural towns and mines of Cassiel were under the cover of night and all seemed peaceful enough. At least I scanned nothing unusual.”
“And the Fae,” Matthius prompted calmly, “What about them?”
“The Fae reported little. The Lowborn Prince who spoke to me referenced increasing activity amongst the Hunters, indicating greater activity among the Darklings. He suggested I observe the town of Logan in particular.”
Matthius raised an eyebrow as he grimaced, “I see, and he had nothing more to say.”
Lina shrugged, forgetting herself and then flushed, “You know the Fae as well as anyone, Commander. This particular Lowborn Prince preferred to keep to himself. It was only his honour and the Code which compelled him to speak to me.”
Matthius stroked his chin, “Hmmm, and the Highborn Princes?”
Lina laughed, “The Highborn Princes of Cassiel rarely show themselves, even despite the Code. The Darklings have made all Hunters a threat to the Fae.” She stopped and took a deep breath, “There is one final thing to report.”
Her uncle stopped and turned his head, “Something went wrong?” His words were uncertain.
“Yes, I…” Lina grimaced, “I was seen by one of the Hunters.”
A brief flicker of anger flashed across the Commander’s face. Lina watched as he ran his fingers through his hair, “So,” he finally managed, “You broke protocol?”
“I had to,” Lina’s retort exploded before she realised, “He was in danger!”
“And he will likely be in danger again,” Matthius snorted, smashing his fist on the table, “The gods damn it Lina, we cannot run around saving every cursed Hunter,” he swore loudly, “Seen by a Hunter – what are you? A rookie?”
“Shut up,” Lina yelled viciously, “There was a Shadowkin there!”
Matthius froze, and Lina stared at his widening eyes, “A Shadowkin? Are you certain Lina?”
She nodded, “I tracked his signature all the way from Sector 022. He was only young, and had devoured just the one host, but he was more than enough to handle the Hunter. Had I been any later in arriving, the Hunter would have been dead and we would have had a fully juiced-up Shadowkin threatening all of Cassiel.”
The Commander nodded, “In that case you did the appropriate thing. How did you find the Shadowkin? And did you deal with the Hunter appropriately?”
The young woman parted her fringe, “I found the fiend by accident as I was finishing my patrol through the Elseworld. He left his original host, his signature burned white-hot across Cassiel, and I just knew something was wrong.”
Lina laughed, “I am just fortunate that he was a one host Shadowkin. My Wyrdblade was enough to dismantle him, but…” She remembered the second question, “Oh and yes, I told the Hunter according to protocol that he did not deserve what he would not understand. I left it at that – he was badly injured.”
Matthius let out a loud “Hmmm,” and his tone dropped to a low murmur, “No one has seen a Shadowkin in Cassiel until now Lina. If this is true…” He rose from his seat, “This is troubling. I need to speak to the Generals and the Council immediately.”
The Commander pressed his hand to the white wall, and Lina smelled the familiar tang of heavy metals. The wall sparked with energy, and a cavity opened for him, “As for you Lina, go and get some rest. You will be needed before too long.” With that he stepped forward into the wall, uttered, “The meeting room,” and vanished.
If you enjoyed this, please feel free to go back and read the other chapters of my story so far. Also look out for other chapters of this fantasy story to be published in late-December, early January. I am off to New Zealand as of now so I will likely not be able to post until after Christmas. Keep an eye open for a blog post on travel and writing based on this adventure. And again, keep an eye for more installments of this (unedited) fantasy story.